It’s hard to believe someone thought making the Dunk Contest about an East and West thing was a good idea, and yet they still went through with it. The East won, John Wall came out as the big winner from what used to be the biggest part of All-Star Saturday and now is just some awkward sequence with very few moments that get the crowd engaged.
John Wall came out on top, better than Terrence Ross and Paul George from his own team, but jumping over the Washington Wizards mascot, grabbing the ball the mascot was holding and then pulling off a reverse dunk. Slightly better and more exciting than the 360-dunk, between the legs that Paul George pulled off. But that wasn’t the point.
Everything, from the skills challenge won by Damian Lillard and Trey Burke, to the shooting stars challenge won by the Chris Bosh team, to the 3-point contest with Marco Belinelli beating Bradley Beal with a very impressive 24 points in the final round, had a bit more panache to it than the dunk contest.
Now comes the usual part: How can the dunk contest remain exciting when there’s a limit to what players can do? Well, it turns out that completely shredding the competition and trying to rebuild it into a team effort is the wrong way to go about it. These aren’t the Harlem Globetrotters who practice on making team plays. These are three guys from different teams who don’t have time to create anything elaborate, which made the freestyle round embarrassing and boring. The battle round, with dunkers facing off in a one on one format, wasn’t better.
Yes, the dunk contest is a limited one in terms of originality and its power to amaze, but making it more complicated doesn’t help. Keeping it simple and simply relying on star power and show, which is something that can be improved, is going to make it a lot more interesting and exciting. It might not be Dominique vs Jordan in the 1980’s, but having a final between Wall and Paul George would have been enough to make it better than what we got in the East vs West format, with hardly an excited look among the stars on the sidelines or the fans in attendance.
The main dish of the All-Star weekend has always been the big game on Sunday, but the warm up to it has always been an inseparable part of it. Maybe not quite the home run derby, but not that far from it, with some years being better than others. Innovation and keeping it fresh is an important part of making a product and a label relevant, but some things shouldn’t be tampered with, and let’s hope this was the last time we saw the slam dunk contest be the most boring part of the evening.